Transformation and Grocery Store Checkout Lines

Few places I know outside of, perhaps, a stint in a Tibetan monastery or hanging out in a proverbial mountain cave, can lead to personal growth and self-discovery better than a grocery store checkout line.

Now I know your first impression upon reading that is that I’m a fool of no small degree, or I’m just being clever with outrageous ways to get your attention…but no, I’m not. I’m not suggesting that you will step immediately into Nirvana or Shangri-la upon swiping your little piece of plastic at a grocery store, but rather am saying that connections can be made by things no less innocuous than standing in line at a grocery store.

What I’m really suggesting is that we pay closer attention to what is going around us at any given moment, be it a grocery store checkout line, selling timeshare tours, or washing windows…each one of which has set forces in motion and actually happened to me and in the process changed the outcome of a major endeavor in my life.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that a cashier at a convenience store or a trash collector or a taxi driver is going to alter the outcome of your life…but it can happen if you’re paying attention…and, I might add, suspending all judgment and pre-conceived notions about who and what is around you at any given point that might have already affected you and you don’t realize it, or that might affect you if you’re paying attention.

The mystics call it consciousness. Inmates in prisons and jails call it “What goes around comes around.”  Bumper stickers of several years ago proclaimed it “Random Acts of Kindness.” The Boy Scouts call it “Do a good turn daily.” 

I call it common, human decency, and I’ll tell you with absolute certainty that if you get and fully embrace what that means, and practice it with sincerity and no motive of getting something back, your life will change. Maybe not transformatively so at first, but it can and does happen…sometimes imperceptively so, but given a consistent effort on your part to continue your course in such a manner, such things will most definitely enhance one’s experience enough that an extraordinary life will become inevitable. In fact, I believe there is some sort of “Universal Law” that says it can’t not happen. I’m sure it’s worded differently in the halls of Mt. Olympus, but it’s still true just the same.

Case in point: I once had a window cleaning business that I started for my son, and a few years later found myself in the midst of the 2008 real estate meltdown while I was involved in getting a film deal put together for my first book. He had let the business go, but I needed to make some money to pay my immediately pressing bills or I wasn’t going anywhere with the much larger and more significant film project. I gathered all the equipment, cleaned it up and went to work. A year and a half later, I had over 100 customers and had weathered the global storm that upended lives and destroyed fortunes.

I did not want to be in the window cleaning business, but I determined that if I was going to be in it, I’d make it enjoyable…not just for me, but for everyone. Rather than be bitter about something I didn’t really want to do, or even be seen doing while I was supposed to be a big-shot movie-maker, I put a smile on my face and kept it there as best I could while I went about my daily affairs, and lo and behold, the business grew quickly. Later on, I sold the business to someone who was so impressed that she told the very last customer that I had secured before turning it over to her that I was an author with a movie in the works. The new customer was so enchanted by the prospect that she asked me about what was going on with it. She had me over for dinner several times, bought numerous copies of my book, and later after our last dinner together calmly and with no effort on my part to even solicit her for anything, wrote out a check and handed it to me. It was for…believe it or not…$70,000!.  She wanted not to invest in a movie, but was so impressed with what I was doing, and that I had been so kind to her, she wanted me to use it to make a difference in the world.

I know that may seem fairly extreme as an example, but it’s a true story…and I could list other examples, including contacts I’ve actually made while standing in a grocery store checkout line, but I will simply say that life can change on a dime, as the saying goes. It can and it does…and you can augment and significantly enhance how it does by the way you pay attention to the small, seemingly-innocuous things going on all around you all the time, and by treating everyone…even the grocery store clerks, the trash collectors and the taxi drivers serving you with common, human decency. What goes around will most certainly come back around for you, and will fill your life with pure magic...of discovery, fulfillment and personal transformation. 

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